Amazon logistics center on April 21 in Bretigny-sur-Orge, France. Photo: Chesnot/Getty Images

Amazon announced on Wednesday it would stop supplying U.S. police officers with its facial recognition technology for one year amid a nationwide push for police reform.

What they're saying: "We’ve advocated that governments should put in place stronger regulations to govern the ethical use of facial recognition technology, and in recent days, Congress appears ready to take on this challenge. We hope this one-year moratorium might give Congress enough time to implement appropriate rules, and we stand ready to help if requested."

The big picture: A federal study found that facial recognition systems offered by Amazon, Microsoft and IBM largely failed to identify people of color, predominately Asians and African Americans. Amazon did not submit its algorithm to the study, per the Washington Post.

  • A 2018 MIT Media Lab study found that Amazon's facial recognition system was the worst at identifying darker-skinned women, which the company has disputed.
  • Amazon has asked federal policymakers to judge how government agencies and law enforcement use the tech.

Driving the news: IBM announced to Congress on Tuesday that it is exiting the general-purpose facial recognition business entirely — a stronger stance than Amazon. IBM also said it opposes the use of such technology for mass surveillance and racial profiling.

What they're saying: "It took two years for Amazon to get to this point, but we’re glad the company is finally recognizing the dangers face recognition poses to Black and Brown communities and civil rights more broadly," Nicole Ozer, technology and civil liberties director with the ACLU in California said in a statement on Wednesday.

  • “This surveillance technology’s threat to our civil rights and civil liberties will not disappear in a year. Amazon must fully commit to a blanket moratorium on law enforcement use of face recognition until the dangers can be fully addressed, and it must press Congress and legislatures across the country to do the same. They should also commit to stop selling surveillance systems like Ring that fuel the over-policing of communities of color," Ozer said.
  • Digital rights group Fight for the Future, which has called on Congress to ban the government's use of facial recognition, called Amazon's moratorium "nothing more than a public relations stunt" in a statement on Wednesday.

Go deeper: How AI police surveillance treats people of color

Go deeper

Updated Jun 27, 2020 - Politics & Policy

The major police reforms that have been enacted since George Floyd's death

NYPD officers watch a George Floyd protest in Manhattan on June 6. Photo: Scott Heins/Getty Images

More than a month of protests across the U.S. following George Floyd's killing have put pressure on governments to scale back the use of force police officers can use on civilians and create new oversight for officer conduct.

Why it matters: Police reforms of this scale have not taken place in response to the Black Lives Matter movement since its inception in 2013, after George Zimmerman's acquittal for shooting Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Black teenager.

Updated Jun 19, 2020 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation to commemorate Juneteenth

On Friday, June 19, Axios' markets reporter Dion Rabouin hosted a discussion on the history of Juneteenth and the current nationwide protests against police violence, featuring former Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, BET founder Robert Johnson and activist DeRay Mckesson.

Robert Johnson discussed the history of Juneteenth and his advocacy around reparations.

  • On reparations and race relations: "Reparations is a demand on the part of African-Americans that we be made whole for the wealth that was stolen from slaves over a 300 year period...My position is that white America should recognize the debt and black Americans should be proud to accept the atonement."
  • How slavery laid the foundation for racial income inequality: "It is no secret that the net income of a white family is $170,000 on average. The net income of a black family is $17,000. That 10-fold disparity can be traced directly back to the wealth transfer that started with slave labor."

Mayor Sylvester Turner focused on policy decisions around policing in Houston, and responded to calls for defunding the police.

  • On his decision to increase police funding: "We need policing. [People] are asking for good policing. They're asking for a policing system that's accountable. They're also going beyond that...They want to be investing in communities and neighborhoods that have been overlooked and under invested in for decades."

Valerie Jarrett discussed the ongoing demonstrations around the country and the upcoming election in November.

  • On the importance of civil rights during this political moment: "We need a robust civil rights division...in deciding how you want to vote, you should say, are the people who are in office actually worrying about the civil rights of all Americans and not just some Americans?"
  • On how to make cultural progress: "It's not good enough to just say, 'Look, I'm not a racist.' What you have to say is: 'What am I going to do to help change our culture, to make it better?' There's something that we can all do individually. There's certainly something the business community can do."

DeRay Mckesson highlighted how the present moment invites people to reimagine the concept of safety.

  • "The question is not police, no police. The question is like, how do I stay safe and what does safety look like? The police are not the best answer to that. The police aren't the only answer to that. And the police shouldn't be the answer that we fund when we think of that question."

Thank you Bank of America for sponsoring this event.

Tech firms blast Trump's extended H-1B visa restrictions

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Tech companies reacted quickly and negatively Monday to news out of the Trump administration that it is extending a ban on entry of those with visas through the end of the year. Among those speaking out against the move are Facebook, Amazon, Google, Intel and Twitter, along with several tech trade groups.

The big picture: The Trump administration argues that visas like the H-1B widely used in the tech industry are responsible for taking jobs that American citizens could fill. Tech companies say they rely on these visas to fill positions with skilled workers from overseas when they've tapped out the American workforce.